A Guide to Lisbon’s Public Transportation System

FlyAwayU | Lisbon's Public Transportation System

One of the many reasons David and I love Lisbon, Portugal so much is their fantastic transportation system. Nowhere else we’ve traveled (so far) has made public transportation so accessible and affordable to use.

Want to get to the airport? Take the metro. It’ll cost you around $1.50 oneway (less with a Zap card). Want to see castles, head out to Sintra on the train (included with the monthly pass) or about $3.00 a ticket. Or do you just want to see the city? Take one of the many trams, buses, elevators, ferries or funiculars. Yes, Lisbon’s Public Transportation System has them all.

Or if you’re not into public transportation, you can find plenty of bicycles, scooters, taxis, tuk-tuks, chauffeurs, shuttles, ride shares or rent a car.

We love how easy it is to get around this city! Including just by walking.

Lisbon is a very walkable city, and it is one of the best ways to discover all the little nooks and corners the city has to offer. You never knew when you would turn a corner and find amazing street art, a pot of flowers, gorgeous tile or just an interesting little cafe for a bite.

Lisbon is hilly, seven hills to be exact, the highest Santo Andre also offers one of the highest views of Lisbon from the Miradouro da Graca terrace. But depending on your location, if staying relatively close to the river,  many of the popular tourist areas can be reached in 30 minutes or less just by walking.

But we also zapped our way around the city using Lisbon’s public transportation system extensively as well.

FlyAwayU | Lisbon's Public Transportation System

Where and How to Buy Tickets

Purchasing the cheapest tickets is as easy as walking up to the “Bilhereira” machines (ticket machines) found in Metro entrance tunnels, train station or at the airport. For a bit more, you can buy them from the operator windows or the bus drivers. The machines sell tickets for all the transportation types.

To buy a ticket: choose your language and the type of ticket you want, insert your money and wait for the machine to print your ticket and receipt. Always keep your receipt just in case you have any issues with your ticket. 

Ticket Costs

We recommend buying the Zap card. Not only is it cheaper but it’s reloadable, and you can put as little as 5 € on your card. A single 60-minute ticket regular price costs 1.45 €  or with the Zap card, 1.25 €. Day passes run 6.15 €. An unlimited monthly pass costs 36 or 42 €, depending on the amount of range outside the city that you want.

Or you buy the Lisboa card, starting at 19 €  a day, which not only includes unlimited transportation and also includes free or discounted entries to museums and local attractions.

Do remember to keep your tickets handy because you will need them to exit the Metro and train stations.

(All  Lisbon’s Public Transportation System ticket prices quoted in this article were correct at time of writing.)

Schedules

Lisbon’s public transportation system schedule is excellent. During peak hours, almost everything runs every 8 to 15 minutes, including the ferries. During off-peak, you could still catch a ride every 15 to 30 minutes in central city areas, a little less often towards the outer edges.

FlyAwayU | Lisbon Metro
Original Photo and Editing by Andrés Monroy-Hernández: Lisbon Metro

Metro

The Lisbon metro has four colored lines that will get you to most of the major destinations around the city. If needed you can then walk or transfer to another form of transportation to finish your ride.

Use the Red line to connect directly from the airport to downtown for the cost of a single ticket. We don’t recommend using the metro if you have tons of luggage because the trains do zip in and out pretty quickly. In that case, consider a cab or a shuttle. But for us with just carry-ons and backpacks the metro was perfect.

Tip: If you’re into shopping, the Centro Columbo Mall is one of the largest shopping malls in Europe and has a metro stop on the Blue line.

Ticket costs: about 1.45 € without Zap; 1.25 € with Zap.

FlyAwayU | Lisbon Trains
Lisbon Oriente Train Station

Trains

Lisbon’s public transportation system includes the intercity trains, or you can connect to trains spanning the entire country and beyond. The intercity trains are regularly scheduled and are an excellent way to ride to Cascais (the ocean) or even out to Sintra for castles. The Cascais ride is a 30-minute trip down the coastline. Make sure you sit on the right side so you can look out. And the Sintra trip is made in about an hour.

The intercity trains are included in the unlimited 42 € monthly pass or at discount rates of around 2 € per ride on the Zap Card.

FlyAwayU | Lisbon Bus

Buses

Lisbon buses get you up and down streets where the Metro, Tram and Light Rail don’t run. Use them to connect to areas of the city where the other three don’t run.

Ticket costs: about 1.45 € without Zap; 1.25 € with Zap.

FlyAwayU | Tagus River Ferry
One of the Tagus River ferries

Ferries

The Tagus River divides the North and South sides of Lisbon. To solve the problem, Lisbon put in an extensive ferry network which is also part of the public transportation system. And one of the fastest ways to cross the river for a visit to the Cristo-Rei, the Christ Statue, in Alamada. It is also the quickest way to get to one of our favorite places to eat and watch the sunset, at the Porto Final restaurant featuring lots of good food, wine, and views of the city.

Tip: The ferries are a great way to get a view of Lisbon from the water, so look at the routes and take a couple for different points of view.

Ticket costs: about 1.45 – 2 € without Zap; 1.25 – 1.50 € with Zap (Cost depends on where you’re going).

FlyAwayU | Lisbon Tram #28
Tram #28

Trams and Light Rail

Lisbon’s old tram cars, complete with leather grips, wood, and chrome, are a fun way to see the city. The #28 is one of the most popular routes, snaking through the old neighborhoods and sites. And the #15 will take you to Belém. The tram is fun but also popular, so expect cars crowded with tourists.

The modern light rail runs on much of the same track system as the trams (except for the #28 route). We preferred the light rail in most cases because they offer a smoother ride. The trams do beat you up a little, and after a long day of sightseeing, we just enjoyed getting home without the bumping around.

Ticket costs: about 1.45 € without Zap; 1.25 € with Zap.

FlyAwayU | Lisbon Elevator and Funicular

Elevators and Funiculars

Lisbon is  A LOT like San Francisco. It’s VERY hilly with seven hills and comes complete with the 25 de Abril Bridge which looks similar to and is painted the same color as the San Francisco Bay Bridge.

To help shortcut all the hill climbing, Lisbon installed several elevator or funiculars around the steepest hills and cliffs. Personally, we climbed most of the many hills and steps because I considered them my butt-lifter training (it does work, my butt was looking good after a month in Lisbon!).

We do recommend using the elevator from the ferry to the Cristo-Rei because it’s so much shorter of a route and had a beautiful view as we were going up.

Ticket costs: about 1.45 € without Zap; 1.25 € with Zap.

And there you have it! That is the eight forms of totally affordable public transportation for getting around Lisbon.

(All Lisbon’s Public Transportation System ticket prices quoted in this article were correct at time of writing.)

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